image

image





Frequently Asked Questions

    Questions about baby birds

    1. I see baby birds on the ground - are they in need of rescuing?
    2. What do I do with this cute, little baby bird?
    3. I tried all that, I don't know where the nest is and/or the parents haven't returned. What do I do now?
    4. Well, I think this baby I found is a duck or a quail. Do I do the same thing?
    5. Won't the parent birds know I've touched the baby and reject it?
    6. The baby has feathers but can't fly. It must be sick or fallen from the nest, right?
    7. I found a duckling swimming in the pond. I know they need water, so I filled a bathtub and put it in the water and gave it bread. Is this ok?
    8. How do you keep baby birds warm?
    9. I brought a baby bird into the house and turned on classical music to soothe it. Is this ok?

    ANSWERS: 

    Q. I see baby birds on the ground - are they in need of rescuing?

    Spring is the busiest time of year at The Bird Rescue Center and hundreds of baby birds are brought to us.  We would like to remind everyone that baby birds should only be brought to us if they are injured or if you are certain that they have been abandoned by their parents.

    Here are tips and considerations about different stages of baby birds:

    Fledglings: 
    Baby birds that are beginning to leave the nest are called “fledglings”.  Their flight feathers haven't fully developed, but they can flutter from branch to branch.  Don't be alarmed if you see a fledgling on the ground.  It could be taking a rest from its first flight or it could be waiting for one of its parents to feed it.  Do not attempt to replace such a youngster in the nest. Leaving the nest is a part of their normal development and it is best not to interfere with the process.

    A chirping baby robin on the ground, for example, is most likely telling its parents that it is hungry and it is letting them know where they can find it.  Parents coach their fledglings to find suitable cover and feed them even after they are able to fly.  Like all parents, adult birds can't be everywhere at once, so if you watch a grounded fledgling for a half an hour you should see one of its parents bringing it several snacks.   Keep all pets, children and curious adults away from the area and let the parents carry on with the process of rearing their young.

    Ground-Nesters:
    Don't forget that many species of birds, especially precocial birds, nest on the ground.  Precocial birds are birds that hatch from the egg with their eyes open, fluffy and ready to follow their mother.  Sandpipers and killdeer are examples of this type of bird and if you see one on the ground and a parent is anywhere nearby, leave it alone.  It is supposed to be on the ground and its chances of survival are greatly reduced if it is taken away from the parents. 

    If the peep of the bird is weak, it can't stand it needs attention and or after 30 minutes of observations the adults do not appear, you will need to bring the bird to the Center.

    Return to top

    Q. What do I do with this cute, little baby bird?

    1. Determine its age. Does it have feathers?
    2. If it is mostly or partially naked:
    3. It is very young and can chill easily.  Also, it needs to be fed frequently.
    4. If you know where the nest is located, replace the hatchling in the nest.  If the parents are still around, they will take it from there.
    5. Clear all pets and people from the area.
    6. Observe the nest from a position where you will not deter the adults from returning.
    7. If the parents do not reappear within 30 minutes, bring the bird to the Center.

    If it is feathered but the wing and tail feathers are still only partially grown:

    1. It may be at a stage in its development when it is old enough to begin trying to fly and will thus leave the nest and deliberately, or accidentally, end up on the ground.
    2. If it is feathered and not obviously injured (broken wing, leg, etc.), clear all pets and children away from the fledgling and observe it for an hour. Chances are the parents will return for it. They may be waiting until all the hoopla has died down before approaching the youngster.
    3. When close to fledging (time when the young leave the nest) young of some species will spend some time on the ground naturally.  As long as there is nothing to threaten the youngster it is best to leave it and let the parents continue to feed and care for the chick.  Soon enough it will be attempting to fly and will be able to move to a safer perch.
    4. If the parents do not reappear or you cannot keep the youngster free from potential harm, bring it to the Center.

    Return to top

    Q. I tried all that, I don't know where the nest is and/or the parents haven't returned. What do I do now?

    Carefully pick up the baby and put it immediately in a small cardboard box or plastic food container large enough for the bird to stand up in or move around a bit. (Try to have the container ready before you pick up the bird; this will reduce stress on the animal.) Use facial tissue, toilet tissue or paper toweling for padding and cover the container LOOSELY with a towel leaving a small gap at the edge for good air circulation.

    Place the box in a warm, QUIET area of the house and call your local wildlife rehabilitation center (see below) for further instructions. Do not offer the bird food or water until you have spoken with them and avoid peeking at or disturbing the bird.

    Return to top

    Q. Well, I think this baby I found is a duck or a quail. Do I do the same thing?

    Absolutely.  Precocial birds (those, such as ducklings, quail, pheasants, etc. which are able to walk and run within a few hours of hatching) will follow their parents as soon as they are able to get around.  Always observe such a youngster before picking it up.  These youngsters imprint immediately on their parents and will not be seen wandering on their own unless they have become separated from their parents and siblings.  The youngster may be absolutely silent or it may begin calling for its parents.  Either way, a lone baby is very vulnerable.  If the parents do not appear to claim it within a short period of time, it is best to pick up the bird and bring it in.  Remember to stand far enough away during this observation period so as to not scare away the adults.

    If you're sure the duckling, gosling, etc. is an orphan, follow the same steps as above. Place it in a padded box/container, covered with a towel, and put it in a warm, QUIET place. Cover the container as these youngsters, particularly the baby quail, can jump right out of a shallow container.  Immediately call your local rehabilitation center for further instructions.

    Return to top

    Q. Won't the parent birds know I've touched the baby and reject it?
    The majority of birds do not have a highly developed sense of smell. They will not "smell" a human and reject the nestling if you replace it in the proper nest.

    As a matter of interest, the New Zealand kiwi has its nose (called “nares” in birds) located at the tip of its beak so that it can smell worms and grubs as it probes in the soil with its beak.  Locally, turkey vultures use a relatively acute sense of smell to help locate prey (dead and decomposing animals).  However, both examples of a relatively good sense of smell are related to the location of food, not the rejection of young.

    Return to top

    Q. The baby has feathers but can't fly. It must be sick or fallen from the nest, right? This is not necessarily true. Several species of birds (i.e. jays, towhees, American Robins) continue to care for their young and, in fact, finish the fledgling's education at ground level.   As long as you can remove any potential hazards such as pets, children and curious adults from the area, and as long as the youngster is not injured and its parents are still in attendance, it is best to leave the youngster where it is.

    Return to top

    Q. I found a duckling swimming in the pond. I know they need water, so I filled a bathtub and put it in the water and gave it bread. Is this ok?

    Downy waterfowl are protected primarily by oil from their mother's oil gland.  Most do not yet have the ability to generate sufficient oil on their own for waterproofing. If they are placed in water they cannot get out of, they can eventually become waterlogged and drown.  If they are with their parents, this is not a problem.

    Feeding bread is a common misconception.  Nutritionally, it is a poor meal for a baby bird.  From a mechanical standpoint, a youngster may not be able to process the bread at a sufficient rate to prevent it from becoming a sodden, indigestible mass in the crop (food storage area off the esophagus in some species).   This can lead to death.

    Return to top

    Q.  How do you keep baby birds warm?

    Baby birds, especially those which are featherless, need to be kept warm.  Birds have a higher body temperature than humans, and babies should be warm to the touch.  Heat can be provided by hot water bottle or, if this is not available, plastic shampoo bottles filled with warm water makes a good substitute.  These should be placed under the towel that lines the box, so that bird does not get burned.  Using two bottles, one on either side of the body, will provide even more warmth.  This type of heat helps to prevent illness and dehydration by applying the heat to the body but not to the environment.  Finally, do not place the bird in the sun.  Although birds need to be kept warm, the hot, direct sun could quickly overheat the bird, which may not be capable of moving itself into the shade.

    Return to top

    Q. I brought a baby bird into the house and turned on classical music to soothe it.
    Is this ok?


    Contrary to popular belief, music does not "soothe the savage beast". Baby birds are wild animals and as such have no experience with, nor need for music. This will, in fact, frighten them and add to their distress.  Before and during transport, keep the youngster as warm and quiet as possible.

    Return to top

    Questions about rescuing birds

    Questions about other bird issues